These pages will give you an overview of our curricular philosophies and instructional methods. To learn more about the curriculum from the district perspecitve or at a particular school or grade level, please click on a link below:
The term “differentiated instruction” is commonly used in discussions of pedagogy, but actually has several interpretations. In the Weston Public Schools, we use the term to describe two approaches to improving our teaching and learning.
The first refers to acknowledging and appreciating diversity in learning styles, developmental stages, and personalities when lesson planning. To do so, teachers must be knowledgeable of and sensitive to: 1) multiple intelligences, 2) neuro-developmental functions, and 3) personalization techniques. As teachers organize a lesson or unit, the goal is to be mindful of these factors. These include what Howard Gardner, an education professor at Harvard University, refers to as multiple intelligences, which teachers use to target the strengths and weaknesses of all students. The result is that teachers are careful to present material and to assess learning over time in ways that are not solely limited to verbal, but also may include mathematical (logical), kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, and visual.
Another aspect of student diversity is having an appreciation for the continuum of neurological development that contributes to one’s ability to learn. This second approach reminds teachers to be sensitive to differences in what Dr. Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at University of North Carolina Medical School, refers to as neuro-developmental functions, such as the development of attention spans, language and motor skills, and memory recall. Because students develop these at different rates, lessons should be designed to strengthen these functions, not penalize students.
The third focus is personalization or tailoring lessons based on knowing a student’s personality, experiences, and learning history. It can include working individually with a student, allowing him or her a choice of assignments, providing opportunities to select a topic of interest, or encouraging a student to challenge him or herself.
All of these practices, while challenging for teachers to address and coordinate, allow the greatest number of students to succeed. Teachers do not address each and every one of these approaches daily, but rather they incorporate them as they plan lessons and create assignments over several weeks.
The second approach to differentiated instruction relates directly to assessments. It is an outgrowth of sharing and discussing student work, a long time practice in Weston. This approach is more directed and involves in depth analyses of student results. The assessment tools can range from quizzes to standardized tests, but they are selected because of their importance in providing information on how well students are meeting benchmarks linked to the Weston Learning Standards. Ideally, teams of teachers carefully review each student error, hypothesizing as to why the student or students answered incorrectly, checking that hypothesis by meeting with the student or students, and then crafting a lesson plan to re-teach the content or skill with the goal of having the student never make the mistake again. This, referred to as Error Analysis, is the focus of our initiative on differentiated instruction this year. For a classroom teacher, it is challenging from a logistical and pedagogical vantage point, but we are confident that it will make a difference in helping all students be successful.
Within each discipline teachers incorporate differentiated instructional methods and global perspectives. Individually and collectively they work to improve their skills and knowledge base in these areas. The curriculum is strengthened by this content diversity and by the goal of meeting all the needs of our students.
The Weston Art Department is a vibrant and vital part of the Weston Public School System. Critical thinking skills, visualization skills, synthesis of ideas, empathy with others, and cross-domain and cross-curriculum applications are all part of the visual art experience, Grades 1-12. These skills are vitally important to our success within the new "Conceptual Age". Through manipulation of materials, experiments in design, cultural exploration, and exciting and rigorous practical study, students discover more about themselves and the world around them. The Visual Arts Faculty are experienced and knowledgeable teachers. Department members are also practicing artists and bring a wealth of enthusiasm and expertise to the program.
The Art Department has embraced the challenge of infusing a global perspective into the curriculum across all grades. From their work in preparation for the visit by the Kasiisi teachers to individual courses studied and travel experienced, lessons were modified to introduce students to a wider appreciation of African and Asian art.
With the installation of the ceramics kilns finally complete, teachers at Woodland and Country Schools re-introduced clay modeling to their classes. At the Middle School, the art show was evidence of the broad range of assignments and challenges that students focused on in their classes. Collaborating with the music and drama teachers, the Middle School Arts are piloting a new project called IROC, where students will Invent, Refine, establish Ownership, and make Connections after a creative prompt. Along with helping students work and think more creatively, goals have and will continue to include fostering a greater sense of community in the art-making process, supporting student understanding of and appreciation for the power of the creative process, and establishing a clear link between all of the artistic disciplines.
At the High School, Art teachers have been collaborating with other departments. Teachers of Chemistry and Art developed an interdisciplinary lesson focused on the chemistry of ceramic glazes with students. The lessons culminated in a mosaic periodic table of elements, which is on permanent display. English teachers and Art teachers designed a lesson to increase student understanding of poems by Pablo Neruda. An artist-in-residence, Thomas Burns, lead HS Art and METCO students through the creation of a mural celebrating our METCO/Weston relationship.
Art is a K-12 Department led by Christopher Fehl, who is located at the high school.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's Art Department page:
Weston Public Schools' athletics program services grades six through twelve, and functions as an important complement to the academic and co-curricular programs. Weston athletics enjoys extremely high student participation rates, offering a multitude of athletic opportunities to all. In Weston athletics, there is something for everyone.
Athletics is a Grade 6-12 department, led by Mike McGrath, who is located at the high school.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's Athletics Department page:
Across the grades teachers have been working to include more nonfiction reading selections, not only because it is an important genre, but also because of the appeal to many students, especially males. In addition there will be an increased emphasis on personal narratives at some elementary levels. Elementary teachers continued looking at student work within teams and across grades in order to assess student progress and the effectiveness of assignments. Examples of other highlights include: integrating a new writing program from Lucy Calkins into the Field School curriculum, creating a “catalog” of strategic lessons for Guided Reading in Grades 3 and 4, and increased collaboration between Katharine Odell and special education teachers to support students struggling in ELA.
At the secondary level teachers have been working to strengthen and coordinate the teaching of grammar in grades 6-12. Teachers in Grade 6 also began to review the curricular documents for Reading and English, so as to improve the effectiveness of this double block. The Grade 9 Topics course strengthens specific reading skills in addition to reviewing and previewing reading selections. The embedded honors option has grown in terms of numbers of students electing it and also in the program itself.
Grade 6-12 English Language Arts is led by Kate Lemons, who is located at the high school. Elementary Reading and Writing is led by Elementary Specialist, Katharine Odell, who is located at Country School.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's English Department page:
In elementary, middle and high school classrooms, foreign language teachers have worked to incorporate technology into their teaching and student assignments. Many teachers have used software programs such as PowerPoint, Audacity (a free download for recording student voice), and iMovie. As a result, students have been able to archive written and oral work, and to apply their language skills in new and creative ways. Teachers have also begun to build a resource file of audio and video clips as well as tap uses of the target language from the internet, bringing additional interesting, relevant and challenging uses of language into their lessons.
At the elementary level, interdisciplinary units have been piloted with social studies as students research Spanish explorers and Spanish speaking countries. Mandarin is now available through Grade 9.
At the High School, Latin now includes an Advanced Placement course. Teachers worked to adjust their curriculum expectations in all levels to prepare students for the challenges of this new course. In Spanish, teachers have been working to incorporate language from several authentic, web-based sources in a single lesson. This is in keeping with shifts in both the pedagogy and the preparation required for the Advanced Placement exam.
Foreign Language is a K-12 department led by Cortland Mathers, who is located at the high school.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's Foreign Language Department page:
Guidance consists of three related curricular areas, Academic Development, Career Development and Personal/Social Development. Counselors meet with students in groups and/or classes in a sequence that focuses on personal and social development in the elementary years, academic development in the middle school years and career and academic development in the high school years.
Click here to be directed to a school's Guidance Department page:
One of the most exciting programs in this discipline is the linking of high school seniors with third graders in their P.E. classes. High school students develop lessons and then travel to Woodland and Country Schools to work with their assigned buddies. The high school students prepare and teach lessons that include physical activities and nutrition.
The Health Curriculum at the High School includes an online underage drinking prevention curriculum called AlcoholEdu. Students complete a pre-course survey of attitudes and behaviors, followed by a three-part interactive course. A post-course survey is conducted, which is followed thirty days after course completion with a follow-up survey. The program has resulted in a significant increase in the number of students who believed underage drinking is harmful, as well as a significant increase in knowledge regarding alcohol and its effects on the brain.
The PE Department has been awarded a Carol M. White Physical Education Program Grant to provide funding for several years to support the goal of increasing the amount of student participation in daily physical activities. Over the course of the grant, the district will receive $206,421.00, most of which will be spent on equipment and technology.
Health and Physical Education is a K-12 Department, led by Mitch Finnegan, who is located at the high school.
Click here to be directed to a school's Health and Physical Education Department page:
Across the grade levels, teachers of history have been refining and adding units with a global perspective. At the K-5 level the emphasis has been on geography, supported by the purchase of new materials obtained through the school budget and WEEFC. These materials include classroom maps as well as playground outline maps of the world and the United States. In grade 2, students now study individuals from every continent in the People Who Make a Difference unit. In grade, 4 students study Central America and in grade 5 they study explorers, conducting research and completing projects in both languages.
At the secondary level, teachers expanded on enhanced units in World History. Some of these included lessons in grade 10 on the Silk Road trade route through China, calligraphy in grade 7 and the introduction of the elective, “Contemporary Asia and Africa” in grades 11/12. Teacher advisors also offered several extracurricular opportunities focused on global understanding, including the Pathways to China on-line courses and sponsorship of two children at the Kasiisi School.
Grade 6-12 History and Social Studies is led by James Murphy, who is located at the high school. Elementary Social Studies is led by the Elementary Science/Social Studies Specialist Pam Bator who is located at Woodland School.
Clcik on a link below to be directed to a school's History and Social Studies Department page:
At the elementary level, technology is increasingly used in support of the differentiated instruction initiative. Specifically, teachers utilize FASTMATH to help students in grades 2-5 master math facts. The program can be used by the entire class in the computer lab or by a few students within the classroom. It is designed for daily ten-minute sessions. Also helpful in supporting students is the software Study Island that can be used in school or at home to help students hone their test-taking skills. Finally a number of websites, such as Rainforest Math, have been identified as sources of support or enrichment for students.
The first grade Early Intervention Math program continues to provide the necessary support for at risk students, many of whom have made amazing progress in their regular math instruction as a result of the program. A Title I program has been established to provide individual or small group support for students identified as not being at grade level in mathematics at Field and the Middle School.
At the Middle School, a Topics course supports students in Algebra I. In addition, math teachers in Grade 7 have replaced the traditional letter-grading pattern with a list of competencies, used as the basis of progress reports to parents. Similarly to the experience of the elementary teachers, the math teachers report that this is a more effective and transparent way of communicating student progress. At the High School, teachers continued to work in teams to create differentiated assignments and evaluate the effectiveness of assessments.
Grade 6-12 Mathematics is led by Jim McLaughlin, who is located at the high school. Elementary Mathematics is led by Tracy Manousaridis, who is located at Woodland School.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's Mathematics Department page:
The music department curriculum begins in the elementary grades with general music instruction. Participation in band, chorus and orchestra at this level is an extra-curricular activity. In the middle school students have the opportunity to choose participation in band, chorus, orchestra and jazz as an elective. In addition, there are opportunities for participating in honors activities such as the District Festival band, chorus and orchestra. In the high school, students may elect participation in these ensembles as a course option, in addition to chamber groups and AP Music Theory. High School students may also qualify for All State Festival and the Tri-M Honor Society.
First graders meet for two half hour classes each week. They are working to discriminate rhythm, beat, and pitches (high/low). Skills from kindergarten are developed as children continue to work on music literacy in the context of songs and singing games like “See Saw.”
Second graders are becoming proficient readers as they start investigating the meter of music. Skills needed to read and write a 2 and 3 pitch song score are practiced. Students are singing beginning rounds such as “Pease Porridge Hot” and “Sea Shell.” Have fun singing rounds together at home!
Third graders are learning seasonal songs (about fall and holidays like Thanksgiving) and folk dances to extend their music literacy. Independent singing is practiced as these singers learn to sing harmony to the “Woodland School Song.” In January students will receive their own recorders to play in class. If your child would like a similar instrument for home practice a “Baroque Soprano” recorder can be purchased at many music stores for less than $5.
Fourth and fifth graders take a General Music Course weekly for 60 minutes. A music specialist engages the students in singing and moving both to one’s basic timing and to music, playing instruments, performing, and creating rhythmic and melodic patterns. These multi-sensory and hands-on activities allow for students to learn in a variety of concrete and abstract manners. The curriculum addresses the six Weston Music Curriculum Standards for singing, reading and notation, playing instruments, improvisation and composition, critical response and connections.
Learning to read and notate music gives students a skill that allows them to explore music independently and cooperatively. Students are exposed to a wide variety of music literature representative of many cultures, styles and time periods. This breadth of background enables students to begin to understand the connections and relationships between musical expression, other curriculum areas and our global society.
All Field students in Grades 4 and 5 sing a major musical composition for the annual Winter Concert as the performance component of their vocal studies. In addition,students will continue to develop the ability to describe and analyze their own music and that of others using specific music vocabulary. Critiquing and analyzing music allows students to obtain a deeper understanding of the creative process.
It is our hope that the child will come to realize that music and the abilities that are achieved are fundamental to all areas of their learning. Response to, and discrimination of; aural and visual information, awareness of body and space, basic timing, coordination, habits of planning and recall, communication, problem solving, and creativity are components of the child’s entire curriculum far beyond the music classroom.
The Chorus, which meets for one hour each week provides the opportunity for 4th and 5th Grade students to develop their singing potential. Although students learn basic singing skills in general music class, participation in chorus provides especially interested students with the opportunity to develop those skills to a higher degree and to become familiar with a wider and more complex repertoire. The skills include proper posture, breath control, diction, phrasing, tone color, dynamics, part-singing, and appropriate response to the conductor’s cues. In addition, learning to sight-read allows students to explore music independently as well as with others. Participation also helps the children experience the joy and satisfaction of performing well as a team, for themselves and for others. Chorus membership provides the children not only with a medium for aesthetic expression but a model for lifelong singing.
Students at the Field School are given the opportunity to begin instruction on a woodwind, brass, percussion or string instrument, enabling the student to develop interests and skills in music performance. Each student participates in one half-hour class and a one-hour band/orchestra rehearsal each week. The class meets during the school day and the rehearsal meets after school from 2:20-3:30pm. Through this program students develop musicianship through solo and ensemble playing, learn the elements of music through group instruction, learn proper practice habits, participate in school performances and develop positive attitudes towards music.
Advanced Placement Music Theory as proven to be a popular course at the high school, with demand exceeding capacity. The 2008 Music Department review has led to several changes in the curriculum.
Music is a K-12 department led by Christopher Memoli, who is located at the high school.
Click here to be directed to a school's Music Department page:
At the elementary level teachers have been successfully integrating the lessons on making Native American face paint into science and social studies units. The face paint curriculum was developed and expanded with support from the Toyota Grant, which was awarded to the district in the Spring of 2006. The curriculum involves lessons across three years from grades 3-5 and requires students to maintain science notebooks from grade to grade. The experiments have created a lot of enthusiasm for science and social studies among students and parental involvement has been fabulous. Students in other grades continue to visit Land’s Sake Farm as part of their science study.
Science Night involves members of the High School Science Team working with students to conduct a variety of experiments. Interactive science activities created by students from the High School’s Science Team include topics in physics, chemistry, and biology, specifically aimed at grades K-5. Support from the Science PTO Council is essential to the success of the event. Students from the National Honor Society help young scientists with lab coats and safety goggles. This exciting community educational event stresses the wonder and the fun of science.
At the Middle School, teachers use Smart Boards to present lessons and report that students benefit from the organization, flexibility, and fun features of this technology. The Grade 8 teachers conduct an MCAS preparation course, voluntarily attended by a large group of students.
At the High School, students are electing science courses in record numbers. The elective courses (Environmental Science, Anatomy & Physiology, DNA Science) run at full capacity. Another option for students to explore their science interests is independent research. Local professional scientists act as mentors and give presentations. Past presenters include Dr. David Gallo from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who spoke about “Deep Sea Explorations” and Dr. Richard Roberts, winner of the1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine, who spoke on “The Unseen World of Microbes.”
A generous WEEFC grant has supported further expansion of the biotechnology curriculum by allowing equipment upgrades and community outreach. A half-day lab experience for interested community members introduces several important “tools of the trade” for analyzing actual DNA samples in our lab.
As previously mentioned, members of the art department and the science department have collaborated to create a chemistry/pottery project in which students used various elements from the periodic table as the basis for experimental pottery glazes. The resulting tiles created by students are on display at the High School – a beautiful visual representation of the overlap of science and art.
Grade 6-12 Science and Technology is led by Erica Cole (Interim), who is located at the high school. Elementary Science is led by the Elementary Science/Social Studies Specialist Pam Bator, who is located at Woodland School.
Click on a link below to be directed to a school's Science Department page:
Information Technology and Libraries
Developing skills to access information through traditional resources and the latest technologies is an important component of Weston's education. While these skills are not taught in discreet classes, they are integrated into every subject.
Dr. Lee McCanne is the Director of Technologies and School Libraries.
Since 1967, Weston has participated in METCO, (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity), a voluntary, desegregation, program which brings approximately 166 students, grades K-12, from Boston to Weston’s schools. Weston prides itself on the success of our METCO students, who have enriched our schools by their presence and have benefitted from our educational opportunities.